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Wednesday, June 20, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor assaults church secretary

He may follow God's law, but a pastor may have broken state law after police arrested him on a charge of misdemeanor assault.

On the Website of Tabernacle Christian Church, Suffolk pastor Carlton Upton Senior welcomes newcomers, writing "as family, we will embrace, nurture, and love you in such a spiritual way that God will be pleased." Now some are asking where the love was last Tuesday when the minister apparently forgot the embraces, and allegedly took a stranglehold on a church secretary.

Suffolk Police Lieutenant Debbie George says, "According to the victim, there was an argument between the two and at some point the pastor physically assaulted her by choking her."

In the criminal complaint, the secretary, Beatrix Mitchell writes, "he grabbed me by my neck and threw me on top of my desk." Court documents say Mitchell hit her head on the phone. George says, "According to the report, individuals had to attempt to pull him off of the victim."

Mitchell also writes "He was still yelling and tried to punch me, but his daughter grabbed his arm and everybody was yelling, 'Stop, stop.'"

So what possibly set off the man of the cloth? George says, "It indicates that there was some concern about the way things were being done around the church."

Today at Tabernacle, Upton's Tahoe sat in the lot while the spot for secretary remained empty. The court ordered that Upton have no contact with Mitchell. And today church members apparently wanted no contact with reporters.

The 63 year old minister's reputation is solid in Suffolk's church community. And by the size of his church building on East Washington Street, Tabernacle has obviously benefitted from his 18 years at the helm. Suffolk resident Olivia Rainey says, "I have friends that go. I have family members that go to that church. And what do they say? He's a good pastor. I have not heard anybody say anything bad about him."

Upton has a court hearing June 25th. He is out on $1500 bond.

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